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would be more out of the common road; and his history and intentions could come in at some second or third number, at the request of some pretended letter, asking “ Who the devil are you?”
SERIOUSLY I think you should point either to physic or divinity. To enlist yourself, at least, is an easy matter. A charge is not indeed a great prospect; but it is the most easily obtained, and affords the most leisure. In medicine, too, every one has his chance, and merit goes a great way. The best way of trusting to Providence is to point at something. Do you ever hear of Dr Buchan, or any other of our acquaintance ? Did you inquire after poor STRACHAN? I am more than apprehensive he has paid the debt of nature.
I wish much to see your discourse. I hope to make one, by way of supplement, which yours will suggest, I shall write more fully soon.
I send you
this with no other intention but to keep up the weekly correspondence. SoMERVILLE and CockBURN threaten to visit you on Saturday next. If you do not feed them high, and bung them with strong ale and whiskey, they will not care a fig for conversation. O tempora ! O mores ! During their stay, keep a strict eye on Somebody. My advice to you, however, is, to starve them miserably; i. e. give them nothing but pease-scones* to their guts, and let them drink of the brook that runneth in the way.
Query.-May not a man who never sins but from an unavoidable necessity, either of na-.
* A species of homely fare, common in some of the country districts of Scotland, made of pease-meal, kneaded up with water and salt, and baked in thin cakes on a heated iron plate called a girdle
ture or constitution, be properly said to be perfectly innocent; and, in consequence of this, must not such a man be entitled to all the rewards due to virtue*. Yours, &c.
P. S.-Don’t score your queriturs so unmercifully; I can scarcely read your last : Farthermore, to avoid the same inconvenience, write your
letters in such a manner that the sealing may not overlard the words.
To Mr William Smellie from *******
No date. My method in this letter shall be, first to answer a question, and then to ask one.
1. The question to be answered is, “ May not a man who never sins but from an una
* This is a mere juvenile and untenable idea, thrown out to eli. cit an answer from his learned friend, and to keep up the ball of improving correspondence.
voidable necessity, either of nature or constitution, be properly said to be perfectly innocent; and, of consequence, entitled to the rewards due to virtue?”
Ans.—A man who sins, from any cause whatever, cannot be said to be perfectly innocent; because sin is the transgression of a law, which is always connected with the notion of guilt; and the very nature of a law infers some penalty or sanction. Transgression and guilt imply punishment. This answers the second part of your question: I speak as a heathen ; but you had certainly an immediate eye to Christianity; and in that view it may be answered in the affirmative; if we attempt the practice of every virtue to the utmost of our power; if we indulge ourselves wilfully in no known sin, then may we find acceptance, but only through a Mediator, and only by faith in him. This is the very meaning of his dying for our offences,-to conciliate the just and mighty God to our imperfect services,—to procure an entrance for us, notwithstanding our defects, and notwithstanding the wilful sins we may have formerly been guilty of.
2. I once before questioned you concerning the effects of thunder on the animal, and now do I want to learn of its effects on the potable creation. Two-penny*, and strong ale, and, for what I know, all sorts of malt liquors, are said to be killed dead by a storm of thunder. Query. How is that effect produced? Wherefore does it affect all ales, when only an antrint animal is destroyed ? Is there any means of preventing it ? Does thunder affect any other liquors besides those made from malt? Again, what are the principles of life in two-penny? How is its natural death effected? And are there any means of resuscitation? Yours, &c.
The following letter to a friend, of which the remaining copy is entirely without date,
* Two-penny was a favourite potation at Edinburgh in former days: it was a mild, brisk malt liquor, or table beer; named either from its price of two-pence the Scots pint, nearly half an English wine gallon, or from a tax paid to the City of Edinburgh by the brewer of two Scots pennies, each equal to one twelfth of a penny Sterling, on each Scots pint of the liquor. The prodigious increase of the. Excise on brewing has banished this economical, wholesome, and exhilarating liquor from Edinburgh, forcing the labouring people to regale themselves on destructive ardent spirits. .
+ Antrin is a Scots word signifying occasional or chance.